Understanding the way in which we hear is the starting point in fully understanding the many causes of hearing problems and the distinct types of hearing loss. We pick up sounds via the outer ear, which isnt only the part of the ear on the outside of our heads, but also the eardrum and the ear canal. The middle ear includes the eardrum as well, but additionally consists of the ossicles (three tiny bones that convert the vibrations of sound into information and transmit them to the inner ear). Lastly, the inner ear comprises the cochlea (a tiny, snail-shaped organ), two canals with a semicircular shape that are important to balance, and the acoustic nerves, which convey the sound to our brains. All of this is extremely complicated and delicate, and a problem in any section can lead to hearing loss. Four different classifications make up what we mean when we refer to hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss is due to something interfering with the transmission of sound through the outer or middle ear. This type of hearing loss can often be remedied by medication or surgery; if surgery isnt a possibility, it can be treated with the use of hearing aids.
Damage to the inner ear, including the cochlea, hair cells lining the inner ear, or the acoustic nerves is called sensorineural hearing loss. This damage can in most cases not be effectively remedied by medication or surgery, but can be minimized through the use of hearing aids.
The third classification is mixed hearing loss, which is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, and which can often be treated using the same combinations of surgery, medication, and hearing aids.
Central hearing loss occurs when sound enters the ear normally, but because of damage either to the inner ear (especially to the cochlea) or to the auditory nerves, it cannot be organized in a way that the brain can understand.
Spanning each of these four main classifications are sub-categories of degree, meaning that the hearing loss may be mid-level, moderate, severe, or profound. Additional sub-categories include whether the hearing loss occurs in one ear or both ears (unilateral vs. bilateral), whether it occurs at the same degree in both ears (symmetrical vs. asymmetrical), and whether the hearing loss happened before or after the person learned to speak (pre-lingual vs post-lingual). Other sub-categories of hearing loss include progressive or sudden (occurring gradually or all at once), fluctuating or stable (getting better at times, or staying the same), and congenital or acquired (present at birth or developing later in life). The most important thing to bear in mind, however, is that whatever type of hearing loss you may have incurred, our specialists can help you to diagnose and treat it properly.